How to keep repurposed content out of legal hot water

User-generated images and other materials are popular ways of raising brand awareness and fan engagement. Just be careful. There are several steps to take to protect yourself.

The selfie is no longer confined to the social sphere.

Brands are showcasing and reusing customer photos and videos on websites, in e-newsletters, and in advertising, turning customers into content creators. But user-generated content campaigns come with very real legal exposure for brands that do not put in place the proper customer permissions to make their campaigns legally compliant.

Brand managers who overlook proper permissions or forget to properly publicize that a campaign is a promotion can receive both customer backlash and Federal Trade Commission scrutiny.

Although no one wants the feds breathing down their neck, marketers are not going to give up remarkably effective user-generated content campaigns. According to Offerpop data, companies that launch campaigns to generate UGC, particularly photos and videos, showcase an astounding 44.3 percent of content claimed by the consumer. Instead of approaching a customer, the customer approaches a brand and provides rich data and valuable content.

But how does a brand obtain the necessary permissions to repurpose this content without making it a cumbersome process? Clarity, calls to action, and incentives are key.

Here are four best practices for maximizing user-generated content while staying legally compliant:

1. Use targeted triggered responses: These automatic replies to campaign entries can direct entrants to “confirm” their entry by agreeing to Terms of Service. Launch campaigns through an end-to-end social commerce solution like Offerpop’s newly launched visual commerce platform, and the process is seamless and hassle-free.

The process should be simple and straightforward and and lead users to the next step in their social marketing experience. Suave’s recent #RadiantWishes campaign required contest participants to tweet with a hashtag, then go through an automated claim process to be eligible to win. This process includes demonstrating that they’ve accessed the campaign terms and conditions. It keeps brands safe and free to repurpose content on their own networks and in future marketing campaigns.

2. Host a submission site: A static site that hosts Terms of Service and clearly states that the content will be reused for promotional and marketing purposes saves a lot of hassle for brands and is straightforward for the public. Rarely does anyone ever decide to skip submitting because their photos will be used elsewhere. Burberry’s Art of the Trench campaign used a streamlined submission page.

3. Directly ask for permission: If a social user tweets or submits content to a brand via an @ reply or on a brand’s Facebook wall, send a them a signup form that is clear and allows them to agree explicitly to Terms of Service for specific content they have submitted.

4. Call out the campaign: Create campaigns that make it obvious that a participant’s content or submission is for marketing purposes. There was a lot to be learned from the Cole Haan debacle. Transparency is crucial for brands that want consumers to provide content on behalf of their brand in exchange for being entered to win a prize. By simply adding a second hashtag (e.g., #Sweeps or #ChanceToWin) or a clear terms of use message, a brand can save itself an FTC-induced headache.

A version of this article first appeared on The Abbi Agency.

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